3 Simple Energy Strategies that Significantly Improve Business Outcomes
January 9, 2017
Strategic Energy Management is an approach that recognizes that energy management is a business activity, not just an engineering challenge. It requires a multidisciplinary approach ties together Best Practices in facility operations, business intelligence, organizational change management, market analytics, human psychology, and capital planning. Implementing a comprehensive strategic energy plan requires some element of business transformation. But there are simple, inexpensive actions that organizations can take to get started, and these actions can yield big returns. These 3 strategies can help reduce cost and improve business outcomes. These will help you start managing energy more strategically:
1. Understand your utility rate tariff and make sure it’s the right one for your business.
Your utility bills are comprised of two main elements broken down into different types of charges. At the highest level, these separate into energy costs ($/KWh where you are charged based on the amount of energy you consume), demand costs (billed as $/KW where you are charged for the rate at which you consume energy), and fixed taxes and fees. In a future Insight, we will discuss how these charges differ and why, but for now, just know that these costs are distributed based on your Tariff schedule (think of it as the utility’s version of a term sheet). The utility applies a specific Tariff structure to your business when it established the account, and It is not uncommon that changes in a facility over time render a particular rate schedule no longer ideal for the customer. Often that customer may qualify for a different tariff that is more financially advantageous. By understanding how your facilities consume energy you can validate which tariff makes the most sense for your business. If you find that your current tariff may not be the right one, working with the utility to transfer your account to a more appropriate tariff could lead to significant savings. Even if you do not transition to a different rate schedule, having a clearer understanding about how your utility bill breaks down will empower you to have greater predictability and control over your energy spending.
2. Find the hidden data in your facilities and unlock the hidden value.
Your facilities may already be producing a lot of good data that you can access in real-time and that, with minimal effort, can be converted in actionable decision support. For example, you may have a control system that runs your air handlers, chillers, boilers, and other key equipment. These are often old systems that operate from a single terminal and provide similar functionality to a robust thermostat. However, like today’s state-of-the-art Smart Building Automation, older control systems rely on sensors and relays that respond to digital pulse outputs. These signals can easily be aggregated and logged in simple database formats and with some Excel formatting or even with a basic analytics add-on like Qlik, you can convert this data into valuable intelligence that gives you greater control. (This would be a really good project for your neighbor’s kid who’s interning for you this summer but doesn’t have, let’s just call it, the people skills to work closely with your staff). To start accessing your data, call your controls vendor and work with them to obtain this data stream. With the infrastructure already in place, they should be able to export the data directly to you and for little cost you can establish an ongoing process. If your facilities don’t have a control system in place, call us and we’ll be happy to come out and provide you with ideas on how you can start getting valuable data from your facility.
3. “Not that anybody could look good under these zombie lights…” Try task lighting instead.
In the opening scene to the 1990 film Joe Versus the Volcano, we follow title character, played by Tom Hanks, on his march into work; into an office environment where the viewer is suddenly made to experience Joe’s agonizing workday. What makes this scene so powerful, and what affects Joe so intensely, is the penetrating discolorment of the 1980s fluorescent lights that drown out warmth and keep the workforce sedated. Joe’s response to this environment is to keep a lamp at his desk; something that offers a little warmth and respite. While this scene is certainly an exaggeration, it’s rooted in reality. Today, 27 years after we first witnessed Joe’s despair, 98% of commercial buildings still rely on fluorescent lighting. The quality is much better today but it falls short of achieving the best outcomes. Learning from tried and true practices that have always been employed in architecture and design firms, many companies are reducing reliance on overhead fluorescents to achieve more comfortable and efficient environments with daylighting and task lamps. Studies tie this to improved workplace performance and significant energy cost savings. This strategy helps businesses gain control over their energy performance and drives better business results. To see how this might improve your business, this fact sheet include tools to help you get started.
If you are interested in learning more about these or other ways that you can begin managing energy more strategically, check back frequently on this site for more Powerful Insights or connect with us directly.